John Harden of Yelm recently spoke to Q13 Fox News about the natural drug kratom being linked to his wife Wendy’s death in wake of the Food and Drug Administration’s advisory for consumers to avoid the substance. 

After further investigation, kratom was not found in Wendy’s system at the time of her death according to the Thurston County Coroner.

Kratom is a plant that grows naturally in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and is used as a natural medicine to ease pain, relieve anxiety and is often used as harm reduction for opioid addiction. It is commonly taken orally in capsule form, mixed with food, water or tea. The substance is controversial and the Drug Enforcement Agency almost banned and classified it as a schedule one drug, along with marijuana, heroin and LSD in October 2016 but delayed their decision until the FDA issued a recommendation.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued an advisory Nov. 14 for consumers to avoid using kratom as it was linked to 36 deaths in the nation, but the statement did not say if autopsy reports revealed a mixture of kratom with other drugs.

“Patients addicted to opioids are using kratom without dependable instructions for use and more importantly, without consultation with a licensed healthcare provider about the product’s dangers, potential side effects or interactions with other drugs,” Gottlieb said in the statement.

The substance is growing in popularity and is commonly sold in urban smoke shops, cafes and bars but could be banned by the DEA following the recent statement from the FDA. Kratom has fueled a nationwide debate; some call it a miracle cure and argue that it is as addictive as coffee while others classify kratom just as addictive as heroin. The benefit of using kratom over heroin is the substantially lower risk of overdose. There are 36 kratom linked deaths total, compared to 15,446 heroin overdoses and 34,572 natural or synthetic opioid overdoses other than methadone between 2000-2016, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Two days following the statement by the FDA, Harden spoke to Seattle media and claimed kratom killed his wife, after she used the substance while fighting opioid addiction. Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock said kratom was not found in her system following the autopsy report. The cause of death was listed as pulmonary and cardiac granulomatosis, a surprising cause of death for a 48 year old according to Warnock. It was found that she was injecting foreign materials into her picc-line (an inserted central catheter) but privacy laws did not allow for Warnock to reveal what foreign materials were injected through the picc-line. The picc-line was intended to be used to inject antibiotics as she was fighting an infection.

“I don’t know why he’s saying the things he’s saying,” said Warnack.

Harden did not respond to repeated requests by the Nisqually Valley News for clarification on the autopsy results.

Wendy’s addiction to opioids began when she was injured in a car accident and was prescribed narcotics to ease the pain, Harden said, adding she took painkillers to get back to work as a registered nurse because she was a “warrior’ and felt passionately about the importance of her job but had difficulty getting off of opioids after the accident. Harden said she turned to kratom more than four years ago along with many alternative naturopathic medicines that were supposed to help with pain but said kratom affected Wendy’s gentle and compassionate personality.

Following Wendy’s death, Harden found kratom in her purse and many baggies around the house filled with it and believes she was injecting kratom into her bloodstream through a picc-line. Although Warnock said kratom was not found in her system, Harden said he is “99 percent sure” kratom was going through her picc-line.

Kratom is banned in 10 states but is not banned in Washington state nor is it federally illegal to sell or possess. It is often sold in capsules and powders. Yelm smoke shops J&M Tobacco and Vape and Yelm Smoke Plus said they do not carry kratom.

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(3) comments


Decent article overall. The one inaccuracy I found was the statement that there have been 36 Kratom related deaths annually. The number 36 is from the time they started tracking them, which I believe was 6 years ago. In addition, this number is not inclusive of only the US but other countries as well


Condolences to the husband and family. Just wanted to point out that the 36 deaths “associated” with kratom were over a 6 to 7 year period and not annually as stated in the article. Kratom has been getting negative attention most recently by the FDA making claims that kratom poses deadly risks; however, many of the 36 deaths toxicology reports clearly indicate drugs such as prescription opioids, benzodiazepines (opiods and benzos being mixed are highly lethal), fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, quinine and surprisingly loperamide. All of these clearly cause hundreds if not thousands of deaths a year, but for some reason kratom is being blamed. If you are going to form an opinion about this plant, It is recommended that one look at the facts surrounding kratom. It’s not the killer some want you to think it is. Period.


"Although Warnock said kratom was not found in her system, Harden said he is “99 percent sure” kratom was going through her picc-line."

So what makes him "99%" sure exactly? If he is that sure he should present his conclusive evidence that kratom was even involved...

Also where are these "10 states" kratom is banned in? That seems like a thing worth mentioning if you're going to through a number out there like that... Let's take a look:

Alabama: As of May 10, 2016, kratom is a Schedule 1 controlled substance in Alabama.
Arkansas: Kratom was added to the controlled substance list in Arkansas in February 2016.
California: Kratom is legal in California, except in San Diego, because of the passing of a local ordinance.
Florida: The use of kratom is legal in Florida, except in Sarasota County.
Illinois: Kratom is legal in Illinois, except in Jerseyville, and the sale of kratom to minors under the age of 18 is banned.
Indiana: This is a state that defines kratom as a synthetic drug and it is banned.
New Hampshire: Kratom use is legal in New Hampshire for people who are 18 and above.
Tennessee: In Tennessee kratom is defined as a controlled substance and is banned.
Wisconsin: In Wisconsin the primary alkaloids present in kratom are classified as Schedule I and as a result are banned.

So that's 4 states that outright banned it and a 5th that made 2 of kratom's 20-30+ alkaloids schedule 1. So at best that's 5/10 of the claimed number. Not to mention all these bans have been under false pretenses, the DEA is using the 36 "kratom related deaths" to try and scare states into banning it, sometimes along with dangerous synthetic drugs that should actually be banned... Kratom is a plant though, a tree actually related to coffee that has been used by humans for thousands of years.

Another thing to consider is in many if not most of those "36 kratom deaths" other substances where identified in the deceased... In at least several cases drugs were found that are known to cause death on their own, yet kratom got the blame with 0 evidence it actually played any role in the deaths... Meanwhile how many people die from alcohol tobacco and all sorts of dangerous pills? Yet you don't see the DEA trying to scare states into banning any of those deadly legal and taxed drugs....

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